Toy Fox Terrier standing for a portrait on a blue background.
Toy Fox Terrier

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest job…

What's a dog breed?

People have been breeding dogs since prehistoric times. The earliest dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs. From the beginning, humans purposefully bred dogs to perform various tasks. Hunting, guarding, and herding are thought to be among the earliest jobs eagerly performed by the animal destined to be called “man’s best friend.”

For thousands of years, humans bred dogs toward the physical and mental traits best suited for the work expected of them. The sleek Greyhound types bred to chase fleet-footed prey, and the huge mastiff types used as guard dogs and warriors, are two ancient examples of dogs bred for specific jobs.

As humans became more sophisticated, so did their dogs. Eventually, there emerged specific breeds of dogs, custom-bred to suit the breeders’ local needs and circumstances. The Greyhound, for instance, was the foundation type for the immense Irish Wolfhound and the dainty Italian Greyhound. All three have a distinct family resemblance, but you’d never mistake one for another.

So, then, when is a breed a breed and not just a kind or type of dog? The simplest way to define a breed is to say it always “breeds true.” That is, breeding a purebred Irish Setter to another purebred Irish Setter will always produce dogs instantly recognizable as Irish Setters.

Each breed’s ideal physical traits, movement, and temperament are set down in a written document called a “breed standard.” For example, the breed standard sets forth the traits that make a Cocker Spaniel a Cocker Spaniel and not a Springer Spaniel.

The AKC standard for each breed originates with a “parent club,” the AKC-recognized national club devoted to a particular breed. Once approved by the AKC, a standard becomes both the breeder’s “blueprint” and the instrument used by dog show judges to evaluate a breeder’s work.

There are over 340 dog breeds known throughout the world. The American Kennel Club recognizes 199 breeds.

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Akita

Akita

The Akita is a muscular, double-coated dog of ancient Japanese lineage famous for their dignity…

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Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound

Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound

The Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound is calm and balanced, devoted to its owner, and reserved with…

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Berger Picard

Berger Picard

The Berger Picard is a lanky herding dog of strong bone and sturdy build. Picards spent centurie…

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Borzoi

Borzoi

Among the most impressively beautiful of all dogs, the aristocratic Borzoi is cherished for hi…

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Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is a lively little companion recognized by his tight tuxedo jacket, sporty bu…

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Bracco Italiano

Bracco Italiano

The Bracco Italiano is one of the oldest of the pointing breeds. It was introduced into the United…

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Braque du Bourbonnais

Braque du Bourbonnais

Pronounced brock-do-bor-bon-NAY, this pointer has a calm, gentle demeanor that is ideally suited…

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Bulldog

Bulldog

Kind but courageous, friendly but dignified, the Bulldog is a thick-set, low-slung, well-muscled…

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Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd Dog

The Caucasian Shepherd dog is a serious guardian breed and should never be taken lightly. The…

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Cirneco dell’Etna

Cirneco dell’Etna

The sleek and sinewy Cirneco dell'Etna, the ancient coursing hound of Sicily, is an athletic hunte…

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Dutch Shepherd

Dutch Shepherd

The Dutch Shepherd is a lively, athletic, alert and intelligent breed, and has retained its herding…

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English Toy Spaniel

English Toy Spaniel

The merry English Toy Spaniel was bred to be the companion of kings. But ETS are spaniels first and…

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